Les Claypool on Pink Floyd, working with superstar offspring, and "one of the stupidest things I ever decided to do"

Les Claypool
(Image credit: Paul Haggard)

When not steering the alt.funk-prog ship Primus, bandleader/bassist/vocalist Les Claypool has other creative plates spinning, including the Claypool Lennon Delirium with Sean Ono Lennon, and Oysterhead with Stewart Copeland

This summer he’s touring the US with his Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, brought together after a 20-year gap, with support from Fishbone, Jerry Harrison with Adrian Belew and more.


Why bring the Frog Brigade back? 

I have this stove full of pots on various burners, and it was time to pull that one forward. I tend to spread myself extremely thinly. But I guess that’s what keeps you getting up in the morning, right? 

How did Frog Brigade come about? 

In the early 2000s I was approached by a promoter in the jam scene to put together a project for a New Orleans Jazz Fest event, and that became Oysterhead. Suddenly the eyes of the jam world were upon me and I was offered various gigs. One of them was for the Mountain Aire festival in Calaveras County, which is famous for the Mark Twain story The Celebrated Jumping Frog. 

So I put together the Frog Brigade – drummers Tim Alexander from Primus and Jack Irons from Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam, MIRV’s Marc Haggard on guitar and Skerik on horns – which became a rotating cast of my favourite musicians travelling in an old Airstream motorhome that I’d drive up and down theWest Coast. We ended up doing Pink Floyd’s Animals in its entirety, and we made an album, Purple Onion.

What’s on the tour set-list? 

Animals is a small portion and a cherry on the cupcake. There’ll be Claypool songs from all eras, and maybe even a couple of Delirium songs cos Shiner is there. 

Shiner is Sean Ono Lennon? 

Shine Lemons, yes. Sean’s like my brother now. To my kids he’s Uncle Shiner. 

You also have Harry Waters, son of Roger, on keyboards. Does he have a nickname too? 

Not yet, but it’s coming. I’ve known Harry throughout the years. He was a Primus fan back in the day. He invited us out to some shows with his dad. He’s a great guy, and he might know some of the songs from Animals [laughs]. I’m anxious to delve more into the creative world with him.

June 12 is Les Claypool Day in Cincinatti. How did that happen? 

Thanks to Bootsy Collins [in 2018]. Bootsy was getting me involved in a museum idea, and he talked to the Mayor, who presented me with the key to the city after we played a show. 

Should we celebrate Les Claypool Day by raising a glass of your soda, Sea-Pop, or your wine, Purple Pachyderm? 

Sea-Pop was created by myself with a herbalist after I ruptured my inner ear and became susceptible to motion sickness. The Pachyderm pinot was initially one of the stupidest things I ever decided to do [laughs]. My wife runs [the business] now and it’s wonderful. People come from all over the world to drink great wine and see the bunch of weird stuff we’ve gathered in our tasting room.

The Summer Of Green Tour continues in July and October. More info at lesclaypool.com.

Jo Kendall

Jo is a journalist, podcaster, event host and music industry lecturer with 23 years in music magazines since joining Kerrang! as office manager in 1999. But before that Jo had 10 years as a London-based gig promoter and DJ, also working in various vintage record shops and for the UK arm of the Sub Pop label as a warehouse and press assistant. Jo's had tea with Robert Fripp, touched Ian Anderson's favourite flute (!), asked Suzi Quatro what one wears under a leather catsuit, and invented several ridiculous editorial ideas such as the regular celebrity cooking column for Prog, Supper's Ready. After being Deputy Editor for Prog for five years and Managing Editor of Classic Rock for three, Jo is now Associate Editor of Prog, where she's been since its inception in 2009, and a regular contributor to Classic Rock. She continues to spread the experimental and psychedelic music-based word amid unsuspecting students at BIMM Institute London, hoping to inspire the next gen of rock, metal, prog and indie creators and appreciators.